I’ve been thinking a great deal about villains lately. I do mean villains and not antagonists. I write erotic romance, but the plot lines always include things like kidnapping, dismemberment and murder. So I need an antagonist who can get the job done, or at least allow my reader to believe he or she can.
Unfortunately, villains can be stereotypical. I know I’ve been guilty. My villains may not have twirled their mustaches and laughed maniacally, but maybe they followed the stereotype for a society’s idea of a sociopath or psychopath. So, what identifies a sociopath or psychopath?
Merriam-Webster defines a sociopath as someone who behaves in a dangerous or violent way towards other people and does not feel guilty about such behavior. Merriam-Webster defines a psychopath as a person who is mentally ill, who does not care about other people, and who is usually dangerous or violent.
Scott A. Bonn, Ph.D, in an article for PsychologyToday.com, makes a distinction in that sociopaths are outwardly violent and unplanned in his or her villainy. A psychopath is calm, collected and plans his misdeeds. He or she also feels nothing for others. Sociopaths are products of their environment and psychopath, as they say, are born that way.
How do we take this information and apply it to our characters?
Carolyn Kaufman, PsyD, in an article for PsychologyToday.com, cautions writers that most real life evil-doers think what they are doing is good. They justify their evil in some way and believe whoever they are working against is the real “evil”. Think about any war, each side thinks the other is the ultimate in moral malevolence.
Our villains have to have a motive. They will either be driven by something inside themselves or reacting to things which happen to them. Just like our protagonist, our antagonist needs more life than simply being insane.
What do they want?
Why do they want it?
What is their plan to get what they want?
Who do they blame that they don’t have it?
Who are they willing to kill to get it?
These are just some of the questions we need to ask ourselves to create fully fleshed out villains.
This is my quest in my next WIP. If you write, what do you do to create fully three-dimensional villains? If you read, what type of villain do you enjoy the most?
I can’t wait to read your responses.